ISJ Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

International Socialism, Spring 1963


Notes of the Quarter

Himalayan Frostbite


From International Socialism, No.12, Spring 1963, pp.4-5.
Transcribed by Mike Pearn.
Marked up by by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


It is humiliating to watch the Indian socialist movement collapse under the political and ideological pressures of the Himalayan ‘emergency’. Indian capital has exploited the situation with characteristic brutality: the Defence of India regulations described in a Note in IS11 last Winter have since been joined by a spate of oppressive legislation to such effect that even the Times has been moved to protest. ‘The arrests should be better justified than they have been’ they wrote (26 January) and questioned ‘... how far a newly discovered sense of purpose ... might be thwarted or damaged if India’s valued political freedom is blurred at the edges’. Yet the socialist movement has been conspicuously silent on these issues, as silent as it has been strident on ‘defence’.

It is not cowardice. Anyone who knows the conditions under which Indian socialists operate, the violence pervading their society, the crudity of class relations and the brutality with which class war is pursued by Indian capital, will find that sort of charge puerile. What remains is ideological unpreparedness and a crippling gulf between the socialist movement and the working class.

This is to be expected of the Communist Party of India, a party as prepared to praise China’s ‘socialism’ as it is to attack her militarily. It is to be expected of the Praja Socialist Party whose opportunism has long foreshadowed the raucous chauvinism that now calls war a ‘word (that) has to ring through the land to prepare our nation for her defences’ or alternatively ‘an incandescent objective, a shared purpose’ (Janata, 28 October 1962). But it need not have been expected of the Revolutionary Socialist Party, an independent, non-Stalinist party with a valuable history of militancy.

In their monthly journal, The Call, for December last year, they wrote:

A newly independent bourgeois democratic national state which has just thrown off the shackles of colonialism-imperialism and which has not yet embarked on an imperialist career and has not aligned itself to any imperialist capitalist power bloc, is precisely just that kind of state, for whose freedom, territorial integrity and national survival Marxists have to fight against all foreign aggression, from whatever quarter that aggression comes. That is why Marxist-Leninists and the toiling classes in India have to support the present national defence efforts of the Government of India.

Not a phrase should remain unchallenged. To present Indian independence as the pure distillate of anti-imperialist struggle is to ignore the self-liquidating features of imperialism today, features that have been operative for a generation and have been commented on often enough in this journal. To deny Indian capital’s own imperialist tendencies is to ignore the bloody occupation of Nagaland, the forced attachment of Kashmir to the Indian Union, the classic exploitation of Nepal and Bhutan, the big brother relations with Ceylon, if nothing else. To present non-alignment as a principle is to deny what The call itself has rightly stated it to be on more than one occasion – an opportunist makeshift, camouflaging Indian capital’s natural gravitation towards the orthodox capitalism of the west. To call on Marxists to defend this amalgam of everything cruel, shoddy and oppressive against, be it admitted, another as cruel, as shoddy and as oppressive, – all in the name of progress, is to extinguish in breath a Marxist tradition and a Marxist method of analysis.

True enough Marx and Engels advocated support for national liberation movements in their day, but only those directly opposed to the two centres of international reaction, Tsarist Russia and Hapsburg Austria. Capitalism then was still a progressive force; in many ways a liberating one. Lenin supported the national movement of his day, again as part of the broad, democratic upheaval against Tsarism. Luxemburg too saw the national struggle in an international context, opposing it in Poland as a reactionary force, supporting it in the Balkans as a progressive, revolutionary one that might topple the Turkish Empire. They all conceived of ‘nation’ and ‘national struggle’ in international terms; they judged their progressiveness or otherwise accordingly.

Surely the same considerations apply in India’s case today! It is difficult enough in all conscience to assert the ‘progressiveness’ of the Indian bourgeoisie. To claim advantage for it in that regard over the Chinese bureaucracy, whose role as accumulators of capital and creators of a proletariat is similar in every way; or to claim that Chinese reaction is responsible for the stunted development of Indian capitalism or democracy is to travesty thought. More important; whatever the outcome of the Himalayan War, the centres of reaction east and west of the Iron Curtain were never in any danger of being weakened. On the contrary, India has been entrammelled more firmly within the Cold War web as surely as the anti-working class forces within have been given their head.

If this is the best that the best in Indian socialism could do, there is nothing to mourn. A few no doubt will begin again at the beginning, fighting the enemy at home, denouncing the Himalayan hunt for what it is – a cruel diversion that can only harm the Indian working class. May these beginnings be made soon.

Top of page

ISJ Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

Last updated on 31.10.2006